By Jerry Yermovsky
Two years ago I did a 400k brevet as a "worker's ride" the week before the real thing. As the route was new, our job was to check the route sheet for accuracy, etc. I didn't know the two other guys helping out, but as it turned out I was to do the brevet with Gus Antonini and Bill Cupples. RBA Jim Wilson pieced together a route for us to follow, gave us a start location, starting time and a route sheet with the checkpoints. Then we would be on our own.
When I arrived at the agreed meeting point, it was cold and damp and very dark. Right on time two guys appeared out of the darkness. The first thing I noticed is that one guy is six foot plus and the other five foot minus. And most importantly, I remember the smile wrapped across both of their faces. Didn't these two know how miserable this ride was going to be? The little guy (Gus) had this beautiful Serrota with more stuff hanging off it than the bike weighed, and strapped to his back must have been another 25 to 30 pounds. Between the backpack and the extras on his bike Gus probably doubled his body weight.
Well off we started — me wondering what I had gotten into and those two just grinning and laughing and talking up a storm. It was really dark, and the darkness just soaked up what little light we had. The cold, damp early morning was affecting my bladder.
"I need to stop and pee." I called out.
"Me too." I heard in chorus from over my shoulder.
So in the darkness, somewhere, there we three were, standing along the side of this deserted country road in a row, peeing on this fence, laughing and talking and getting to know each other (must have been a guy thing). Suddenly I realized that I was in very special company!
By the time we reached the first check point, we had watered quite a few fences. As we rested and watched the sun come up, I looked at my watch and realized this wasn't going to be one of my faster rides. While we were stopped Bill told me that Gus had a pretty severe saddle sore and wasn't sure he could go the distance. Gus never said a thing — just kept on smiling!
The miles passed and I knew Gus was struggling to hang on, but whenever I looked into the mirror, all I saw were two very big smiles. By midday, Bill's devotion to Gus was very apparent. These two loved each other very much and were having the best time just riding together. Don't misunderstand — they really wanted to complete the ride in the given time. But truthfully they just wanted to spend the day together doing what they loved.
We completed the ride just under the time limit. Most people would be embarrassed to tell how long we took. Certainly, nothing of notable athletic accomplishment happened that day. Just three guys spending over 19 hours on their bikes getting to know each other. Gus was so happy to finish he had tears in his eyes. Bill was jumping around and slapping Gus on the back, congratulating him, telling him how much fun he had, and what a great day it had been. At the end of the ride, watching the two of them, I realized just how special the day and the company had been.
The next day, Gus invited my wife and me to lunch with his family. We dined and talked for hours recounting the previous day. The company was great! As the time passed, I realized how much pleasure cycling brought to Gus's family and how they all rallied behind Bill and Gus's adventures.
Some of us have experienced that special ride. Maybe it was the effort, or the time, or maybe it was the company. Well, that was one of those rides for me — no great effort on my part — no great times — just great company! Thank you Gus and Bill for the memory, I will always remember your smiles and your devotion for one another.